In this article, Christian Turianskyj, a member of St. Lawrence Toastmasters the Hall of Fame, shares some of the commonly shared struggles we encounter during preparation for speeches. Here is the story of his preparation for the mastering of a monologue.

That’s my last duchess painted on the wall,

Looking as is she were alive.

A daunting task : Learn by heart – My Last Duchess, a 56 line dramatic monologue written by Robert Browning in 1842. This challenging Advanced Manual presentation, Interpretive Reading, will to be delivered on December 2013 at my Club, The St. Lawrence Toastmasters Club.

An entire week has passed and I can only recite 10 lines by heart. What has happened? Distractions, memory lapses, lack of perseverance or a mixture of the above have contributed to this dismal result. Now, in my computer room on a Saturday morning I am ready to forge ahead. But wait! The computer screen beckons; why not check the latest Emails? This shouldn’t take long.

Christian, we need to go shopping! shouts my wife from the downstairs kitchen. Didn’t we go to Costco yesterday! I answer. Yes, but IGA has some specials TODAY!  This afternoon, I shout back.

Back to the poem; this week-end I will learn 10 more lines.

I nearly forgot! This morning’s special Choir practice with the Stewart Hall Singers. The Choir director wants the extra practice to render justice to Bach’s Requiem scheduled for the Christmas concert November 30 next.

The afternoon goes by quickly: siesta time, shopping , raking the leaves underneath our huge Norwegian maple and now back in my computer room, looking at the next two lines:…Sir,’twas not Her Husband’s presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess’ cheek…

Speaking about joy, how about recreation time, perhaps an episode from the Arsène Lupin series, that famous French crook who steals from the rich and famous and seduces comely women. One hour later, I have switched to reading Rick Riordan, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, which my grandson, Alexandre, recommended.

Monday evening is choir practice, leaving no time for poetry. Tuesday is Toastmasters’ night. Wednesday night, back to more reading, this time Philipp Lepate’s , To show and to tell, useful for my weekly creative writing workshop. Anyway, I still have 13 days left.

Thursday, November 21. I get up early. I will learn another 15 lines. Flora reminds me. What about the blood tests! I can perhaps learn while waiting at the Hospital but wait! This afternoon is creative writing and I need to finish one piece for reading: FRESH AIR WILL DO YOU GOOD! 

In the evening a more pressing assignment awaits my attention. My Toastmasters’ Club has decided to induct me into the Hall of Fame during the Club’s 65th Anniversary on November 23. Since the Club’s foundation in 1948, there have been some 14 Hall of Fame Members and I am the next. Only an exceptional acceptance speech, worthy of the honour bestowed, will render justice to the Club’s excellence. An article in the Toastmaster’s magazine: HOW TO ACCEPT AN AWARD WITH CLASS recommends: be brief, gracious and modest. Modesty might be a problem for a lawyer! I’ll hint that the award was granted only because I am the oldest member around.  I am delighted to have my family at the table on Award night; the speech is recorded for viewing on  our Club’s website.

November 24. 26 lines have been memorized; the recitation is not perfect but do I really need perfection? Who will know if I skip a word or two? Come on Christian, just learn your bloody lines! Aren’t you the same person who, in 1965, was required  to learn by heart the Québec Civil Code for the Bar Exams? Yes, but this was nearly 50 years ago.

November 28. and the pressure is building. Although the text is mostly consigned to memory, some stumbling blocks have not altogether disappeared. Transition lines are a problem because I have learnt the poem by sections. Have I chosen the right poem, I wonder. A voice tells me: Persevere.

December 2.  A trial run in front of the Cranes, my neighbors. They suggest better diction  and more emotion. Good advice, I say.

December 3. A framed portrait of a young woman serves me well as a prop while reciting the poem. John Fowler, a Hall of Fame member is my Evaluator. He, being originally from England, has a good command of the English language. The dramatic monologue is a success. In his written comment, John is struck by ….the incredible memorization of old English. This comment, by itself, makes my effort worth while.

Christian Turianskyj

October 2016